Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bone me, Baby.....

I am still confused about this Bone Broth phenomenon that seems to be sweeping the "cool" folks…..

Bone Broth will cure all your ills digestive…..and spiritual, moral and ethical.

I am so confused to hear people going on in the media (and read them in print) about the difference between soups, broths, stocks and "bone broth". 

The very first cookbook that any classically trained (think “old”) chef gets is Escoffier.  Auguste Escoffier was the most famous chef of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries….he worked at the Savoy in London, the Ritz in Paris.  He came up with Peach Melba and Melba toast….because he was having a torrid affair with Nellie Melba, the Angelina Jolie of then.  Escoffier trained guys who trained guys who trained many of our modern “genius” chefs. Think “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”  In “Six Degrees of Auguste Escoffier” I am a 2.  (Ho Chi Minh is a 1….having worked at The Ritz while studying in Paris back in the day. Probably why being bombed back to the Stone Age for 30 years didn't bother him....compared to working in an Escoffier kitchen).

The Escoffier Cookbook runs around 1000 pages, and there is very little hand-holding after the first dozen pages.  Ingredients and techniques are assumed.  Minimal guidance, because Escoffier assumes that everyone has already had a rigorous, brutal French training in the basics.

This is old-school stuff, but I am old-school.  Here are the first four paragraphs of the most influential cookbook of the 20th century:

“Before undertaking the description of the different kinds of dishes whose recipes I intend giving in this work, it will be necessary to reveal the groundwork whereon these recipes are built.  And, although this has already been done again and again, and is wearisome in the extreme, a text book on cooking that did not include it would be not only incomplete, but in many cases incomprehensible.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is the usual procedure, in culinary matters, to insist upon the importance of the part played by stock, I feel compelled to refer to it at the outset of this work, and to lay even further stress upon what has already been written on the subject.
Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking.  Without it, nothing can be done.  If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy; if, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result..

The cook mindful of success, therefore, will naturallly direct his attention to the faultless preparation of his stock, and in order to achieve this result, he will find it necessary not merely to make use of the freshest and finest products, but also to exercise the most scrupulous care in their preparation, for in cooking, care is half the battle.”

In “normal” kitchens, nothing is wasted.  Respect for food and labor is primary.  In Basque country, restaurants like Mugaritz and Arzak became the best in the world because of this.  Apprentice chefs forage in the mountains and meadows for wild herbs, mushrooms and flowers.  “Throwaway” ingredients like beef tendon and apple cores become centerpieces of dishes.  My chef friends from Pais Vasco never had the joy of hanging with their grandparents as kids…..they starved to death in the same mountains and hills that are now flooded with yuppie gastronomes.

Beyond that, it is really hard to make a buck in the restaurant business.  Food has to be great, which means great ingredients, which cost great amounts of money.  No chef in his or her right mind tosses any part of any ingredient that can be used to that end.

Or….that is the way it used to be.  Back in the day, all restaurants always had a stock pot going…..more than one, usually.  Beef, chicken, fish, veggie.  There were specialty burners that sat low to the ground to facilitate the handling of 20 gallon stock pots.  Restaurants that did not do lots of butchering even would order bones and scrap meat from wholesale butchers to beef up their stocks.

In the vicious, highly competitive atmosphere of big-time kitchens, the one safe job if a young cook needed a break was to stand next to the stock pot.  When Chef looked around for someone to peel 20 pounds of garlic, a fine attention to detail in skimming the big pot was a great dodge.

Apparently this does not happen anymore.  Everywhere you turn there are instant ingredients available that mimic old school techniques.  I can’t think of any other reason for this “bone broth” craze.

Craze is a word not used lightly.  A dear friend of mine is struggling to start a business making bone broths for the farmers market crowd.  She is paying $8 a pound for organic beef bones!  

Someone shoot me.

And if bone broth seems like the greatest thing you have heard of in have been eating in the wrong restaurants.


Blogger sam said...

My biggest shock starting work an a NYC restaurant, after my graduation from Cachagua, was that all the vegetable and meat scraps went into a garbage bag, instead of a stock pot.

Fast forward five years, and a new broth place has opened up a few blocks from my GF's apartment in the East Village, complete with a line on the sidewalk...

10:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I grew up 3rd generation in the family German deli in Rochester NY catering to the expatriate population working at Xerox and Kodak. I can remember only once eating at a restaurant before going to college, where I met Michael. We would waste nothing. My parents would re-use the wax-paper from cereal boxes to wrap our sandwiches for school. They'd wash and hang saran wrap on the clothes line to re-use. Marrow bones we'd give free to our best customers, ostensibly for their dogs, but I think the Germans surviving WWII ate them. We'd take the peeled skins off blood-tongue-sausage prep and make giant slabs of skin-filled hoof-gel to slice and feed our dogs. One of my fond memories is sharing tongue-skin pulled from gel-slabs with my dog, hiding under the red currant bushes. Red currants go well with tongue-skin! I'll bet I could charge techies a fortune for that gristle & garnish here in Sonoma now. Marrow bones now cost more than corporate chicken flesh!

6:55 PM  

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